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First Impressions : Airbus A350 XWB by FlightFactor aero

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First Impressions : Airbus A350 XWB by FlightFactor aero

 

Route : LFBO Toulouse-Blagnac to BIFK Keflavík

 

FlightFactor aero on the 20th Sept 2014 released their first beta version of the A350 XWB aircraft. This comes after the huge success of their other range of aircraft from Boeing in the Boeing 777 and the Boeing 757. Here in this release FlightFactor aero have switched camps to the European style manufacturer of Airbus. That in itself is a huge change in many aspects as the philosophy of Airbus is very different from the American style of bulletproof practical workman like designs (until the B787 Dreamliner that is), were as Airbus is a very automated and more computerized efficiency driven design. Deep down both companies really now run the same computerized philosophy, but their outlook on the flightdeck is really miles apart.

 

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This is not a review, as the thoughts here are on just seeing and flying the A350 XWB for the first time. As this is a beta then things can change between now and the release version, and their are few items that will be changed and fixed before the release date. Also in the images are a few things that won't look right, they are very minor but they are there. This is a beta and that means also that not everything is finished and a few items are not working so we are just going to look at the overall picture and not much very the in-detail stuff.

 

In saying that then the very first impression is that for a beta the A350 is very well completed. Many a time when you launch a new aircraft beta your eyes will roll to the obvious problems that are still facing the designer/developer, in most cases there is usually a lot of work still to do. But here overall the A350 is very complete, that is not saying it will be released in a few weeks or even longer, because there is always a buried gremlin that can put any plans in the bin. But there is a few things going for us here in that Laminar Research have just finalised their last 10.30 update, and that means the X-Plan platform is stable and nothing that has to be changed to fit any X-Plane betas that could mess up the works and then that angle is not an issue here for FlightFactor like it has been in the past (there is nothing worse for a developer than being in the middle of a X-Plane beta release when you want to launch an aircraft). In a first flight everything worked very nicely and that shows the experience of the FlightFactor team in how they now have reached a certain level of quality in their aircraft. Yes there are a few issues but I couldn't see any real bad nasties in there that could ruin any holiday and put off a release for months. The biggest issue (for me) is usually framerate, but the A350 XWB ran very well in that department from the first off, so that was a big relief from the word go. Trying to dial in framerate is one of the hardest things to do in any aircraft, but again the lessons learnt from the past has shown through here, I was extremely happy to see green framerate numbers from the word go.

 

FlightFactor aero have with this aircraft created a new category or have split their product line into two separate types of aircraft in professional models (i.e. B777 and B757) and now another in the “advanced” version in that pro models have like lighting effects, particles, menus, high 3D graphics and textures, cabin and fully functional cockpits, and the Adv versions are not so in depth and hard to fly. From a developers point of view you can't win in that if you keep one section of pro-fliers happy and then the other users can't access the aircraft because of the high level of systems that need to be set up and programmed. On the other side if the aircraft is simple to fly then the pro-fliers will hate such a basic simple machine. So here FlightFactor has tried to cover both bases in trying to keep both camps happy. The Adv is just that with basic systems and the Pro version with all the bells and whistles will come later in time for the A350 XWB. So does one camp still lose to the other or do both camps lose in this change...  That was the first question I wanted to answer when I got the beta.

 

Well the result is that that both camps win. The A350 XWB does not feel like a stripped out version of the other FlightFactor aircraft, the systems are very much in there and still totally complete, so the Pro users won't feel completely alienated either, but there are a couple of compromises that help the first users and the "I want to fly straight away" crowd. The good thing is that the compromises are clever in fact you (or I did) find that I could fly far quicker and set up in less time than with any other aircraft in this category. So both Pro and Adv users can access this Airbus and the manual is excellent for anyone new to this sort of Pro flying. And that is the benefit here in that any novice can with the A350 bridge that gap between the Pro and Novice world's because this aircraft meets you halfway. That does not mean that it is simple...   as you will still have to study the manual and learn the aircraft, but at this level you can proceed to the next and get yourself closer to using the Pro aircraft because that wide technical bridge has been crossed without wading right through a 1000 page manufacturer operations manual.

 

A good example of this is the FMC (Flight Management Computer).

 

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You still have your INIT page were you set up the route and preferences. You set up your airport departure runway and your destination airport arrival runway and then you only have to to insert the route which is extremely easy. Just put in your fixes and nav-aids under each other and then when completed your route you then eliminate the F-PLN DISCONTINUITY and your done!  So where are my SID-STARS? well there isn't any (on this version) but you can not only save the whole route to the X-Plane FMS file but also any SID and STARS you have created (as a header and footer to your route) and it is done. It took me only six minutes to set the aircraft up with the LFBO - BIRK route and I was ready to go. So it goes both ways in that if the Pro want to do the whole SID - Route - STAR flightplan then they can do so, but if you want to input a quick flight (plan) then it will only take you minutes to do so. Another great side effect of this system is that your route is laid out on one of the display panels (center or like I preferred on the left side pilots panel) and it will show not only the distance but the exact time of your arrival at not only each fix, but also the destination airport. Adjust your speed and the arrival time will change as well....  love that?  Well yes I did a lot.

 

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The quality of the cockpit is overwhelming, extremely good and totally functional, It felt slightly darker in there than what I expected from an Airbus environment. The angled side screens will be a love or hate thing...  I found them overwhelming the PFD and some times turned them off to get rid of the distraction. The information can be shown on the central pedestal screen as well if you need it. The six large screens dominate the panel, Airbus notes that they wanted to put in the commonality with the bigger A380 flightdeck, but this A350 design feels nothing like the A380 from the pilot's seat (from Airbus's point of view and not FlightFactor's design work).

 

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Features abound, FlightFactor have again changed their menu options (now on the side screens) from the window menu on the B777 and the (preferred) X-Plane plug-in bar menu with the B757. but it does make them very handy and easier to use. Ground equipment supplied is overwhelming, and you get the lot. In setting the aircraft up it looked great with even people standing around, push-back is built in there as well. The only thing that I wasn't crazy about was when you select the stairs you get both forward doors or two stairs, great in one context but not usable if you are parked at a gate...  (that may change yet).

 

The livery packs are to be supplied again in sets of 10 like with the Boeing 777, Oceania, Africa & Middle East, Asia, Atlantic, Europe 1, Europe 2 and Pacific will be available besides the basic seven that comes with the aircraft. Quality is very good and so is the range.  Here is small example.

 

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Airbus fly-by-wire systems are extremely complex and are the make or break in the feeling of functionality and use in flying Airbus aircraft. FlightFactor has used the QPAC designed systems and that means you get the best Airbus flying experience and it shows as you use it. It is also now highly tuned and has all the QPAC features like Alpha prot (High Angle of Attack Protection) and alpha floor protection. Normal law, alternate law 1 and alternate law 2 and mechanical law. So it was relatively easy to quickly get into the feeling of flying this aircraft if you have spent time on QPAC's A320-232 and Peter's Airbus A380 which use the same systems.

 

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Aircraft design is excellent. In the low arctic light the aircraft looked amazingly good (The first picture is now my desktop image) and the aircraft flew the whole route with no desktop crashes or things that could cause headaches.

 

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A lot of concern was made that the performance of the A350 XWB was not going to be correct in that the aircraft is still not in service and as solid operational data is not yet available. The A350XWB certainly felt good to me, but I wasn't looking at the numbers real closely either (because there isn't any), but I think FlightFactor have got them as close as possible on what data is available. Certainly as the real data stuff does become available it will be interesting to see how close the numbers will actually be and any adjustment (if any) will be done.

 

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No doubt that X-Plane's horizons will be expanded yet again with this aircraft, It will be a fantastic addition to our flying world, just like the real aircraft will be to the aviation world. Sitting on the cargo ramp at BIKF the aircraft looked great in the darkening wet sky and in some ways you can't believe that we already have this aircraft here and almost soon in the near future also ready for release in X-Plane. There are make no doubt still a few items like with the real aircraft that need attention to before it is released on the wanting public as the beta program progresses. Overall the first signs for the Airbus A350 XWB are very good.

 

Stephen Dutton

 

24th September 2014

 

Features noted:

 

             Fully custom aircraft systems (elec, hyd, air cond, ADIRU, etc.)

             Fully custom ECAM monitoring system with all screens and functions included

             Fully functional airbus style alert system with multiple status and procedural lists

             Fully functional interactive airbus electronic checklist system

             Airbus a350/a380 unique “touch screen” interfaces with dozens of screens and hundreds of functions

             Fully custom and unique MFD (multifunctional display) system with most of flight planning pages implemented in a new graphical interface, as well as FCU and radio backups just like on the real plane

             Full OIS screen system with options, ground equipment control, passenger and cargo loading, and even a full user’s manual inside the plane.

             Old style MCDU and fully functional aux instruments as backup.

 

    Full FBW with Highly realistic implementation of the Airbus “normal law” by QPAC – the most realistic fly-by-wire implementation for desktop flight simulation.

    In v1.0 an advanced flight planning interface (based on XP native data)

    Basic SID/STAR implementation using X-plane fms-files that you can create yourself and share with the community.

    "What you see is what you fly" flight path indication on the ND (i.e. curved trajectories with the turn radius properly computed based on speed and angular turn distance.)

    Implementation of all Airbus AP modes, except some non-precision approach modes (Selected and managed modes, speed constraints respected, "at or below" contraints in phase climb, "at or above" constraints in phase descent.)

    Full PFD and ND displays with fully independent display and different data sources for the captain and copilot displays.

    Independent autopilots

    Many new options like scroll wheel support for switch manipulation

 

As usual a very advanced 3D model with HD textures and complete and  animated mechanics.

 

Developer Site: FlightFactor aero

Developer Site: facebook

A350 Dev Thread : X-Plane.org

 

Scenery used in this post.

- LFBO Toulouse-Blagnac - Aerosoft (X-Plane.OrgShop US$21.50)

- BIKF (Keflavik) - Aerosoft (X-Plane.OrgShop US$19.20)

 

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Guest John G.

Many of the liveries are inaccurate...

-The Tail on the AA plane is not done well
-The SIA tail bird logo's wing should go along the angle of the tail's leading edge.

-Cathay Pacific paint is nothing like that, that's CX's special livery applied on certain CX fleet.

-The Qatar livery has the QATAR text squished.
-Monarch livery has the "Monarch" text too low on the fuselage, should be slightly lifted.
And its an a350, not the original 747, so it should be stark clean and brand new.

Textures and especially the liveries are still not improved, I think it looks worse than the 757 liveries.

The model has improved to a great extent though I can applause on that.

I still do look forward to the release. :)

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Guest Michael

Don't want to be nitpicker but Airbus is more than just a French manufacturer. It a European Company with it's head-quater in France. The Final Assembly Line is in Toulouse but the components are made and developped in Span, Germany and the UK. It's a common & widespread mistake especially in the US to call it a French company, though.

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Don't want to be nitpicker but Airbus is more than just a French manufacturer. It a European Company with it's head-quater in France. The Final Assembly Line is in Toulouse but the components are made and developped in Span, Germany and the UK. It's a common & widespread mistake especially in the US to call it a French company, though.

 

European it is...  But I doubt the French will see it that way as the amount of money they have poured into the company.

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Guest Michael

Thanks Stephen.

 

And about the French... it's not like they're doing it without getting something in return like know-how, economy jobs etc. Same with the other partner countries.

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Is the beta publicly available?

 

The answer is no...  Developers usually use their tried and tested testers to get the right feedback they require. Public testers are users and not testers, In that the very good ERJ-195 had a 100 public beta testers but received almost no real significant feedback on how to develop the aircraft?  Most beta aircraft are very much not the final aircraft you buy, in fact that is why most users hate them because they are so buggy and not correct...  that is why they are called betas, and not a final release.

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Guest Volker Kusserow

Looks like a hot new machine. The nose reminds me of the typical Boeing noses though (707, 727, 737), unlike typical Airbus design, don't you agree. Of Course this has nothing to do with Flight Factor, but rather with Airbus' design.

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Guest ellison anthony fernandes

awesome looking a350 livery and the plane its self :D flight factor developed this plane so well could yall make a Kuwait airways livery for the a350 please

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awesome looking a350 livery and the plane its self :D flight factor developed this plane so well could yall make a Kuwait airways livery for the a350 please

 

Yes I really love that carbon livery...  There is no Kuwait Livery on the list, as I have checked. So you might have to request that on the .Org.

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Guest proxxi

The article claims that the A350 would simulate "Alternate Law" and "Mechanical Law", unfortunately this is not correct. Only normal law is simulated.

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